Quick comment: How well does editorial page staff handle women's issues?

December 09, 1998

On Nov. 25, The Herald-Mail asked readers to comment on whether our editorial page is biased against women, as alleged in an Oct. 31 letter from Judy Lyons Wolf. co-chair of Woman At The Table, a group promoting the political candidacies of women.

In her letter, Wolf took the paper to task for not endorsing any of the three women running for county commissioner. The letter said, in part:

"Women At The Table, a bipartisan group, was founded two years ago because of the attitudes your endorsements so starkly represent. The record in Washington County for the inclusion of anyone but men has been dismal."

In response to Wolf's letter, we discussed the issue with our Editorial Page Advisory Group, a citizens' group which meets monthly. The group agreed that it wouldn't hurt to ask readers for their opinions on the matter. Specifically, we asked readers if they felt The Herald-Mail's editorial page were biased against women, and if the page could do a better job of covering women's issues.


Linked to this page are the letters we received in reply. In answer to some of the issues they raise:

- Our policy on headlines is that they should reflect or summarize the writer's point,

- Our policy on editing is that because of the limited amount of space available, some letters must be edited. There is no intent, however, to trim copy in such a way that it belittles the writers or their message, although few letter-writers who've been edited are happy about it.

Some readers complained to us privately that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was not the best time to gather comment on this issue. We agree that between now and the Christmas holiday, women (and men, too) are probably more focused on family and related matters than on newspaper policy. We consider this issue important enough to believe that delay is not the best option.

The suggestion that we pay closer attention to how headlines and copy editing affect a writer's message is a good one. We'd still like to hear more about issues this page should editorialize on. The reader who questioned what we consider "women's issues" is missing the point; to assume that we know what's important to women readers without asking them would be mighty arrogant indeed.

It would also be mighty arrogant to conclude that one call for input, issued during the Christmas holidays, would tell us all we need to know on this issue. We'd like all our readers to feel free to tell us (at any time of the year) how they feel we can improve our product and our performance.

Read the Letters

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